BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 23, 2019– On April 10, Belizeans will vote in a national referendum on whether or not to submit the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a final, binding resolution, in accordance with the terms of the Special Agreement (compromis) treaty signed between Belize and Guatemala in December 2008.
The question that voters will be asked to vote yes or no on, is: “Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determines finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the parties?”
While the Government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow has launched an “ICJ Education Campaign” that is geared toward obtaining a yes vote, in contrast, organizations such as the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) and the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), among other groups, are proponents of a no-to-the-ICJ vote.
Against this backdrop, the Kremandala organization has put forth its own, unique position, dubbed “People’s Forum,” which takes the format of dialogue among grassroots Belizeans.
Kremendala’s People’s Forum is not geared toward obtaining a yes or no vote on the ICJ referendum, but instead, is aimed at initiating a discussion that facilitates the sharing of the collective knowledge of the people on the issue.
The first ICJ People’s Forum kicked off last Wednesday, January 16, at the St. Martin De Porres Swift Hall, where approximately 300 persons attended, many of whom participated in the discussion that was broadcast live on KREM TV and KREM Radio.
Community activist Ya Ya Marin-Coleman, who is also the UBAD Education Foundation chairperson, explained that the People’s Forum will take place over a period of 12 weeks and will be held in all six districts of Belize.
“The referendum will be held on Wednesday, April 10, so we are having the People’s Forum on Wednesday nights,” Marin-Coleman said.
“This effort is costing thousands of dollars, part of which Kremandala will sponsor, along with the generous donations of some business people and my own fundraising efforts,” Marin-Coleman said.
She explained that from the first People’s Forum, “We have been able to learn from our experience; it is a learning curve and we are open to people offering their suggestions, ideas and criticism. Nuri Muhammad will be the moderator for all the People’s Forums.”
Marin-Coleman said that they would pick conversation starters so that the rest of those in attendance could pick up on the conversation. “So if those people who come out are not talking, then the community members will continue the conversation. It did not play out like that in the first one, but I understand the producer would like to find people who like to talk, and they understand clearly what their role is,” she said.
Marin-Coleman stressed that it is not an education forum. “It is not a question and answer forum, it is not a forum where Mr. Big Man, who ‘know-everything,’ will come tell we small people weh no know nothing, everything. It is not that. What it is, is a people’s forum. When we realize that we don’t know something, we take the responsibility to go and find out,” she said.
“The more we continue to talk to each other, the more comfortable we will be with reasoning and how we find solutions to the questions we have,” Marin-Coleman said, adding that “it is a collective process. Everyday people have a wealth of knowledge. Nobody is pushing an agenda. We thank the community partners who are partnering with us.”